Quinta do Vesuvio
We had spent a good part of the day at Quinta do Vale do Meão and due to our long trip back down river, our plan was to have a quick tour and spend the majority of our time at Quinta do Vesuvio, enjoying a thorough tasting of Vintage Ports and a few new DOC wines too. We were met by Dan Carbon, who is no stranger to those that read the newsletter or visit the Forum. He is the marketing manager for all wine produced by the Symington Family Estates.
Dan is extremely sharp and has a great sense of humor. He was very willing to answer the many questions our guests had. We enjoyed looking around the property and then entered the dining area of the quinta to find a wonderful lineup of wine awaiting us.
This was to be our first time ever trying a table wine from Vesuvio destined for the marketplace, although several of us had previously tried other early efforts that were never commercially released (which I thought were pretty fabulous!). But given the Symington’s penchant for achieving greatness, it is no surprise that they waited until an extraordinary vintage like 2007 came along for their inaugural release of the following DOC table wines from Vesuvio:
2007 Quinta do Vesuvio Reserva Douro red wine – Dan mentioned that this blend was made from Touriga Nacional (70%), Touriga Franca (20%) and a small amount of old vine and low yielding Tinta Amarela grapes. Quinta do Vesuvio’s low yielding vineyards, with vines numbering nearly 400,000 on the property have seen some new plantings of both Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca in the Quinta Nova parcel. Rupert Symington states, “… only now do we think we have a wine worthy of the estate’s reputation.” Produced in gravity fermentation tanks at Quinta do Sol and aged for 10 months in top notch new French oak. Lively and engaging floral scents of carnations, with minerals, anise, mocha and an earthy note as well. The black fruited profile possesses fine structure and a solid core that in time will reveal great complexity. 2007 will be a solid cellar-worthy bottling and a fine first entry for Quinta do Vesuvio. The mild tannins here would probably be a lot riper if this had a few more hours in decanter. It shows intensity and classy breeding, delivering a long and dry finish. Drink now through 2022. My notes say, ‘… and I thought the 2006 was good!’ 1,000 cases produced. It is currently selling for $60 in the USA. 94+ points 10/2/08
2007 Quinta do Vesuvio Pombal do Vesuvio Douro red wine (cask sample) - This is Vesuvio’s 2nd label red wine and it’s a fleshy, flashy DOC offering under $25 today; priced in line with SFE’s Altano Reserva. A fine cuvée which incorporates Touriga Franca (60%), Touriga Nacional (30%) and (10%) Tinta Amarela. 2007 Pombal also shows an earthy quality on the nose but less minerality, more plum and prune notes but lovely perfume overall. The Pombal is soft, with concentrated dark cherry flavors, medium tannins and deft balance. It cries out for food and should pair well with just about any meat dish. It’s easy to approach but cellar worthy too; drink from 2009 to 2017. 2166 cases made. 90+ points 10/2/08
Next it was on to the Ports and all are produced from the grapes grown in the Quinta do Vesuvio vineyard, many of the parcels contain some of the oldest grapes in the Douro. The Ports are all foot trodden in the eight lagares, each of which holds 4,368 gallons, according to Dan. We had a very fine selection to taste through and we began with an all-time favorite and I noticed a number of our guests gushing when they saw what was first in line:
1994 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – Dark magenta, opaque and showing no signs of its age. One of the greats from the esteemed 1994 vintage. I kept my schnozz in the glass while the others had nearly finished drinking theirs. The floral bouquet here is heady stuff and downright gorgeous, with figs, blackcurrant and a faint whiff of chocolate. Ripe, dense and inspired juice, this is the first great Vesuvio since the Symington’s purchased the property in 1989. It took a few years to figure it all out but within five years they nearly reached Port Nirvana. Extraordinary length and complexity and enough tannins and supporting acidity for this to easily reach the half century mark. A “must have” in your cellar! 96+ points 10/2/08
1996 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – Others did not like this as much as me, but that’s fine. It is one of the better Vintage Ports from 1996 and certainly in the top four. Dark ruby red color and it is just shy of opacity. The nose was different than previous bottles I’ve experienced, and in addition to some chocolate covered cherry notes, there was a delightful eucalyptus accent which although a bit high toned, added aromatic depth. The palate was full and rich but although it did not show up on the nose, the mid-section was well endowed with a spirituous characteristic which was not quite unpleasant, but certainly a distraction. Flavor wise, this was quite tasty with blackberry and currants, modestly tame tannins and a fruit filled finish of medium length. It should age nicely and drink at peak nearing 30 years of age. 92+ points 10/2/08
1997 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – This Port does not get the respect it deserves, but I could probably say the same thing about the entire vintage, Rodney Dangerfield dressed in black. The color of this wine is still so very dark, deepest red imaginable with a light violet meniscus. Floral and herbal at first whiff and then comes a hint of tobacco followed by cocoa and red fruits. With over a decade of age, it is as vibrant as a five year old and still quite primary. Chunky and a bit clunky with a fine upside, which it won’t take long for this to achieve. A generous Vesuvio that flies well under the radar and remains a bargain today. Lush dark berry fruit, sweet and hot, but I have little doubt that it has the stuffing to wind up fully integrated in the middle of the next decade. Drinking window is still not easy to forecast. Given the impressively ripe yet refined tannins, it should probably be drinking at peak circa 2030. Let it sit in the cellar until 2015 before trying one of your own. 93+ points 10/2/08
2001 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – Here’s a Vesuvio vintage which I’ve had scant visits with and was pleased to be able to have another data point. Dark and inky violet. For a 2001 this is quite striking on both the nose and palate, with its only issue: alcohol which has yet to assimilate. Otherwise, I am quite fond of this Port and it is showing considerably better than what I remember during our visit two years earlier. I realize this was a challenging vintage with that crazy heat wave in June and it was problematic for both Tinta Barroca and Touriga Franca; but this turned out quite fine indeed. It wore blue berry velvet and boysenberry too with rough and ready tannins that let you know who’s the boss. It could have used a much longer decant, but tasted again just prior to our departure (this was the one glass I made sure to try again!) it was more open for business and the extra length of the finish was the biggest change I noticed. This will shine on its own 40th birthday party. I’ve never been nearly as generous with this Vesuvio, though today it has earned it. 94+ points 10/2/08
2003 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – Suddenly, a hush in the room, as if someone entered with a gun. There were some stellar Vesuvio’s in our lineup, but sniffing and sipping this inky Port left our group speechless … truly one of the finest VPs of our entire Port Harvest Tour. Spicy, briary blackberry pie, brambly blackcurrant jam and intense floral fragrances -- pure and powerful. The mouthfeel of this wine is a mix of pain and pleasure. The massively concentrated and primary black fruit was a lot of fun, as was the silky symmetry across the tongue. Flavors exploded with youthful blueberry vibrancy, punctuated by the acidity and then the tannic tsunami rolled in and the rest was a blur. If 1994 Vesuvio was a woman; marry her. 2003 = “the mistress.” How well will this age? Think of Demi Moore at 50. As profound as the structure is, the finish is even better. 97+ points 10/2/08
2004 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – Some would consider this an elegant Vesuvio in the making. For “modern-day Vesuvio” I find it just average. That said, it is still a good Port and there’s plenty to like here. The nose was reticent and even with a great deal of swirling; it was difficult to discern notes beyond purity of grape. Further decanting may certainly have helped. Bold flavors were somewhat confected with figs and prune dominating, along with a bare minimum impression of acidity and tame tannins. As this continued to open in the glass, some tell tale blueberry began to emerge and the finish gained some length. This led me to the conclusion that at 4 years old, the 2004 requires a significant aeration. Given this impression, I am unable to predict a drinking window with confidence. 92+ points 10/2/08
2005 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – An intoxicating, incredibly inky infant. Given that 2005 was the earliest that Vesuvio had ever started picking (at the time) the level of phenolic ripeness was truly impressive. Accentuated by plum and blueberry notes with a subtle overlay of cinnamon spice the nose was nothing short of decadent. It is not hard to be swayed by the charms of this youngster. Stacked with huckleberry and strawberry flavors and meticulously structured with bold tannins that grab at the tongue and teeth long after the swallow. This is a serious head turner from a solid SQVP year and right at the head of the class. Cellar it for 3-4 more decades and only open them if you have time to provide a very long decant. 95+ points 10/2/08
2006 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – It was the second of three times I enjoyed this Port back in 2008. As much fun as it was to taste this Vesuvio, having tread on the grapes with a great bunch of friends during the 2006 harvest, it was even more special. Dark squid ink and fully opaque. I was afraid to put my nose in the glass as I could not get the image of our feet (in this Port) out of my mind. Just kidding. Pure grape essence, violets and kirsch came to the fore and there was a touch of aguardente but no more than a gentle whiff. I love tasting young ones like this and it was pretty close to a cask sample, which is fine by me. Bright cherry and seductive ripe raspberry fruit delivered a petal-to-the-metal verve, impossible to turn away from. Prickly acidity propped up by the mouth-coating, refined and powerful tannins assured the age worthiness of this Port; say reaching maturity about 2040. The ending offered a smooth texture and harmonious, racy finish. Dan mentioned that the Tinta Barroca grapes were “killed off” due to the climate, but I was captivated by this Port and did not catch the reason why. 93+ points 10/2/08
This was a wonderful albeit all too brief visit to Vesuvio, but we knew our appointment was going to be a bit tight and thanks to Dan for being patient with us. He provided great background information on the history of the Vesuvio property. Then one last bottle was drawn as a nice ending to a perfect afternoon:
1970 Graham’s Vintage Port – Magnum - It was a wonderful treat. We opened it to taste and Dan gave us the bottle to bring to dinner. It was in pristine condition and by the time we (+3 hours) finished dinner and drank the rest it had opened up quite a bit. Medium-ruby color with a pale pink-bricking edge. Just a wonderful experience for our guests. A nose of raspberry, cedar, milk chocolate and caramel was into the secondary phase and captured at a wonderful time in its evolution. The texture was as good as the flavor itself, sublimely viscous and charming with loads of glycerin. Beckoning flavors of cherry, strawberry fruit and a red licorice-cinnamon spice that added complexity throughout. It was sweet, unctuous with light acidity and an everlasting kirsch laden finish. Just a perfect way to end a remarkable day into night! 96 points 10/2/08
It was time for dinner as it was getting fairly late and we wanted to make it across the river before sundown. We had reservations at the Senhora da Ribeira restaurant which always makes for a fun evening. It was going to be a late night and we were all in the mood for a relaxing evening with some delectable cabrito, which is a house specialty (baby goat). We had some excellent wine with dinner (no notes taken that night as we all were just into some fun discussions about our experiences that day). It was a really laid back meal with phenomenal bread and then we broke out the rest of that Graham’s magnum as mentioned above in the tasting note.
Most of us slept on the ride down river back to our hotel. It had been a very long day and we couldn’t wait to snuggle into our comfortable rooms. Amazingly, a few people had the stamina to sit on the porch of our hotel when we arrived there and finished off a few of the partial bottles from earlier in the day and smoked some Cuban cigars. This part of the evening is always optional and the smarter members of the tour capture the extra hour of sleep, while some of the younger folks believe they can always sleep when they return to the USA. The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast while some members of the group decided sleep was more important. It was actually a beautiful day and we had two phenomenal appointments lined up. They were polar opposites, one a small but outstanding almost unknown producer of fine table wines and great Ports, the other, one of the most well-known names in the Douro. As soon as everyone was ready we headed out for our first adventure.
Quinta do Tedo
The beautiful Quinta do Tedo which is located at the confluence of the Douro and Tedo rivers, just a stone’s throw away from the majestic Quinta da Nápoles. I first discovered Quinta do Tedo and met the owners Vincent and Kay Bouchard in Seattle in early 2002 at a great Port event. Shortly after beginning our bespoke tours of the Douro during the Port Harvest, Mario and I brought a group to Tedo on our very first Tour in 2005 and had a wonderful time and the rest is history. Now we revisit every couple of years to catch up on the latest and greatest wines and spend some time with their excellent Port and Douro winemaker, Jorge Alves.
There was a large renovation project that took place in 1997, in which the six lagares were brought into the modern age so that fermentations could be controlled within. Each of the stone lagares has cold water piping running just below the flooring and normally runs at 6-7 degrees C. These particular lagares are of two sizes and hold about 7 to 11 pipes each (a pipe = 550 liters) with a total capacity of 54 pipes. Tedo’s production is 100% foot trodden in lagar, the vines average over 30 years old. They have invested their time and money to renovate this historic property that dates back about 250 years. Tedo has been making VP since 1995 and also has a lineup of LBVs dating back to 1994.
We learned about Quinta do Tedo’s new organic vineyard planted to Touriga Nacional which includes a wild cover crop. Years ago, they had more vineyard land than today as 12 hectares of their property were submerged when the dam was built not too far away and the level of the river rose. Tedo still has a total of 15 hectares, 5 of which are block planted to Touriga Nacional (2 ha.), and 1 hectare each for Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. In addition, Quinta do Tedo maintains 10 hectares of old vine field blends.
The 2008 harvest was well under way and looking very solid at Tedo. Quinta do Roriz was already picked and we’d get to see the Touriga Nacional coming in from the vineyard, later on. Their Douro wine production team is housed within Tedo’s 3-room facility during the harvest to save them from traveling back and forth, a nice perk.
Jorge Alves is a charismatic, engaging young man, yet quiet and humble too. He is talented and passionate about making both Port and Douro wine. I find him extremely well versed in the history and culture of the Douro and he knows a lot about both viniculture and viticulture. He toured us around the property and then took us into the small adega, replete with old toneis, mostly medium sized casks and explained how the room was set up and what was inside the various casks.
Jorge then facilitated some barrel sampling and we had the opportunity to try some 2008 Douro wines and a couple of back vintages still in cask, as well as components of the just vinified 2008 Vintage Port which would be quite an experience, tasting these fresh baby Ports directly from the cask. As each block planted variety is vinified separately, we learned that the 2008 Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional were just going through malolactic fermentation and we obviously avoided tasting those two.
I did not capture notes on all of the dozen plus wines we barrel sampled and typically I don’t put those notes in these reports anyway. However, there were a few Ports where I took some very simple notes to share and the first was actually a sample of a mono-cepage (singe grape variety) VP. It can be viewed as a component tasting, since the Touriga Nacional we were about to taste was vinified and stored separately. At some point, it would be blended with other grape varieties into a Vintage Port, unless used for something else like an LBV, Ruby Reserve or to become part of a Tawny blend.
2008 Quinta do Tedo Touriga Nacional Vintage Port (barrel sample) – Violet aromatics and pure grape essence with a spicy, peppery note. Ultra-sweet and ripe grape and dark cherry flavours with a soft and immediately approachable style. Smooth and the Touriga Nacional was chewy and mouth filling with moderate acidity and chalky, refined tannins. Ultimately drinkable and fun to sip! Not rated 10/3/08
We then tried several other barrel samples of individual grape types made into Port. They were significantly older and could no longer be used for LBV or Vintage Port and were clearly destined to be blended together with other like wines to create the blend for a Tawny Port.
We tasted a 1998 cask sample of Tinta Barroca from old field blend vines. It was like a very tasty 10 year old Tawny, even though it was only from one grape it still had some complexity and honestly, I’d drink that juice any day of the week if it was not as “hot.” It was quite good and in fact, everyone in the group really enjoyed it.
Next came a 1997 barrel sample and I am not sure which grape it came from, but it was significantly more enjoyable than the 1998 which we all liked. The 1997 was not only smoother, but seemingly had far more integration of the aguardente, as there was absolutely no heat showing whatsoever.
Next we tried a 2001 Touriga Nacional Port barrel sample. It was a bit too hot, yet sweet and fresh with boysenberry flavor and caramel. A bit simpler than the other two Ports yet with very good acidity and ripe, medium tannins. The finish was good and this was enjoyable except for the youthful spirit.
To understand the difference that one year makes compared to the next, we then sampled a 2002 Touriga Nacional Port from cask. This was a red fruited and very tasty drink. It was softer than the 2001 with much tamer tannins too.
Then the real fun began and we had a few LBV cask samples to try too:
First up was a 2003 Quinta do Tedo LBV cask sample. Normally at various Quintas and Lodges that we visit we are only barrel sampling Vintage Ports so this was going to be very interesting as these were not racked off in advance and clearly had not been fined or filtered. This was a unique Port experience and I know that a bunch of the guests were very excited to try these.
The 2003 was very good and was over a year away from being bottled. Jorge mentioned that the actual bottling would not take place until December 2009 (14 months later) so we were trying something unique. What surprised most of us is that Jorge mentioned that Quinta do Tedo had already bottled and released their 2003 LBV about five to six months earlier. This sample was quite ripe and very well balanced. Easy to drink in a red berry profile, ample acidity and soft tannins. I found it fascinating that Tedo would have two vastly different 2003 LBVs sent to market a year and a half apart. Maybe I missed something but it seems that was exactly the plan!?!?!?
We also had a 2005 LBV barrel sample to sip. Wow, this was extremely sweet, maybe one of the ripest and highest residual sugar Ports I’ve ever tasted. I will admit, it was very good with lip smacking freshness and a raspberry flavor and light-bodied, soft and smooth silhouette.
Several hours had passed since our arrival and we had one last Port to try. It was a 2007 Vale da Mina which was either going to wind up as an LBV or Reserve. Some of the grapes in this blend were red Moscatel which are typically grapes that the locals eat. This Port was also quite sweet and primary with dark cherry and ripe raspberry flavors. Soft and quite approachable at this early stage which is saying a lot for the overall balance of the wine too. The tannins like almost all of the samples, were quite tame and round, clearly part of Jorge’s winemaking talent and a personal preference of his.
It was now lunch time and we all went inside and it was clear that after such a wide variety of very sweet Port barrel samples that everyone had built up a good appetite. We were eating in a large dining area, in the main Quinta house. There were waiters and cooks brought in to cater a meal for our group and it was absolutely perfect. Each course was paired with Douro wines and I penned tasting notes on these “finished” bottles.
2006 Quinta do Tedo Douro Red Wine – Magnum – What a nice way to start off our lunch pairings with this fine bottle. Dark ruby color. Expressive nose of blackberry and cassis with a distinctly smoky note, accented by tobacco and tar. As nice as the nose was, I enjoyed the flavor of the wine even more. Accessorized by dark cherry and plum fruit, full and rich in the mouth and zippy acidity to provide the flash and tension. Smooth and supple with round tannins that showed up just prior to swallowing, the structure here is on the money. Speaking of which, this is priced to sell at only $15. After hearing that, the finish of the wine seemed even longer. Drink now as it is very food friendly and approachable, through 2018. 91 points 10/3/08
2005 Quanta Terra Grande Reserva Douro Red Wine – Magnum – Dark ruby color and fully opaque. A refined fragrance of prune, fig and an earthy undertone with cedar elements. Showcasing blueberry and plum fruit flavors and infused with an earthy, cigar box character providing great complexity in the mid-palate. Gorgeous concentration and mouthfeel with impressive structural components and an opulent, racy finish. A seriously voluptuous Douro wine and a bargain at its $35 price tag. With only 2,100 cases produced, this will sell through very quickly. Drink now or anytime through 2020. Why is this not easier to find in the USA? 93+ points 10/3/08
2005 Quinta do Tedo Grande Reserva “Sevedra” Douro Red Wine – Magnum – This had a very tough act to follow with the Quanta Terra Grande Reserva showing such grace and therefore it was slightly disappointing by comparison. A solid wine nonetheless but it probably should have been poured first. Dark opaque garnet color. Red fruit, ripe and approachable and a much more straightforward profile overall. Structurally sound and with good length to the aftertaste. Simple and tasty in a drink now style. It would be best to consume this wine by 2016. 89+ points 10/3/08
Along with cheese and dessert, we tried several styles of Quinta do Tedo Ports ...
Quinta do Tedo Finest Tawny Port – I am assuming this is Tedo’s entry level Tawny offering. A mix of walnuts and apricots and a significant dose of spirit on both the nose and especially the palate. This is a very basic and simple Tawny and it is far too hot for my liking, with a rather short finish that highlights the heat, more than flavor. 80 points 10/3/08
Quinta do Tedo Reserve Ruby Port – This is more of an elegant style of Reserve Ruby, as it shows a light weight, with sweet raspberry, cherry flavors and moderate heat. It is juicy, easily to sip and the spirit is not unpleasant, but warming. A simple mid-palate is otherwise balanced, with round tannins and a modest length to the finish. 84 points 10/3/08
2000 Quinta do Tedo LBV Port – Dark magenta and with full opacity. Expansive aromas of blackberry and dark cherry along with a smoky streak, a hint of aguardente and lots of vanilla. Full-bodied, very smooth and voluptuous in the mouth and immediately approachable. The flavor profile of figs, prunes and raisins is intermingled with a backdrop of milk chocolate. If the finish offered less heat, it would have been fantastic, as the length is breathtaking. I can only assume that this would be even better with several hours in a decanter before consumption. Drink over the next six or seven years. This is an Unfiltered LBV. 89+ points 10/3/08
2003 Quinta do Tedo LBV Port – Unfiltered. Clearly the quality has turned around as this is in a different league than the previous three Ports, including the 2000 LBV. This is a cellar worthy Tedo LBV that really delivers lots of pleasure. Although there is a touch of spirit in the 2003, it is unobtrusive and along with the blueberry and plum scents and dollop of mint, the aromatics are quite showy. This is a bold and big-boned LBV with boysenberry and blueberry fruit flavors that are provocative, smooth and tasty. Very primary at this point and actually I’d recommend stashing this in the cellar and drinking it between 2010 and 2018. The dusty tannins are powerful and will be around for awhile. 91+ points 10/3/08
2004 Quinta do Tedo Vintage Port – Presenting a full arsenal of pomegranate, tar, cedar and a rose petal bouquet. Full, rich, chewy and almost jammy, with dark wild berry and well-defined mid-palate layers that leads to aggressive and well endowed tannins. Possessing a bright, juicy and sensational finish along with a tremendously long term aging potential for a vintage such as 2004. Cellar or drink now through 2029. A fine achievement. 93+ points 10/3/08
2003 Quinta do Tedo “Sevedra” Vintage Port – Expectations are high given the vintage. It offers a nose that is stuffed with notes of smoky, spicy bing cherry, mocha and a touch of spirit. But it is even more fun to drink, medium-bodied, smooth and luxurious mouth feel, with flavors of pure blackberry, gobs of vibrant acidity and tannins that arrive late. There’s a long aftertaste of cocoa powder with slight heat. The 2003 Tedo should cellar well to 2025. 92+ points 10/3/08
2007 Quinta do Tedo Vintage Port (cask sample) – A sumptuous bouquet of lavender, herbs and strawberry delights the senses. The palate delivers generous quantities of grenadine and blueberry fruit flavors in a medium-bodied sweet style. There’s a high-toned tanky note that is perceived as this has time to bloom in the glass and a long finish prevails with gentle acidity and a lingering aftertaste of ripe plums and chocolate. 91+ points 10/3/08
A great time was had by all. This was another fantastic visit and I hope that someday soon, we will see a much greater presence of Quinta do Tedo Ports and DOC wines here in the USA. Jorge provided us with a very memorable experience and taught us all lots about viticulture, components of Port and so many other facets of the drink. I look forward to our next visit to this up and coming property which deserves a lot more attention than it has received in the past. Thanks again Jorge!
Quinta do Noval
After departing from Tedo, we headed to the Pinhão Valley for our visit to Quinta do Noval. It is hard to believe that we would wind up spending a full nine and a half hours there, tasting through 20 bottles. In fact, we were supposed to do some treading in lagares after dinner, but we er, um ... forgot about that. Believe it or not, we were having such a good time, that we lost track of the time and our guests just laughed it off. Upon arrival we were greeted by Rute Monteiro, the consummate professional PR Manager for Noval.
Rute took us to class and I’ll just touch on a few things that our group enjoyed learning ... fun factoids of Noval:
- Quinta do Noval possesses 145 hectares of vineyard land, all of which is A graded. There has been a ton of replanting at Noval in the past 15 years and many of those vines are now on line and producing juice.
- The grapes in the Nacional vineyard are ungrafted and remain on their original rootstock and that is why the vineyard is called “Nacional” as the vines themselves are called by the same name. The old vines in the Nacional vineyard are approximately 35 years old on average and at least half are made up of these grape varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca, Souzão and Tinta Barroca.
- During the harvest the grapes are picked between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. during the coolest part of the day, as the late afternoons is when it becomes the hottest. Dinner for the workers is at 7 p.m. and the treading starts at 8 p.m. in lagar, for what is known as “the Corte” (cut, as the grapes are crushed during the first two hours. Then after a brief break at 10:30 there is individual treading that takes place. The next day four people will tread the entire day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now that is a work out!
- The robotic lagares seen at Quinta do Noval are used solely for color extraction, as their robotics are hydraulic plungers which punch down the grapes to derive the greatest level of anthrocyanins possible.
- De-stemming takes place for 50% of the grapes used in the regular Noval Port and there is absolutely no de-stemming done for the Nacional VP. Doing so, lessens the tannins contained in the stems and is just one of the many differences between these two Ports.
- The cost for aguardente rose 62% between 2007 and 2008!
- There are 60 employees at Quinta do Noval in the Douro and another 10 at the shop in Vila Nova de Gaia.
For those that confuse the names of the large casks (I see this on Forums all over) here is the truth according to Rute: Tonel (Toneis is the plural) = large wooden vats that are lying down on their side. Balseiros = large wooden vats that are standing upright.
- The Quinta do Noval winemaker is Antonio Agrellos and although I have been to the property a handful of times, I’ve only seen him once and only long enough to shake his hand and say hello. He has been in charge of all winemaking for the property since 2000 and is the technical director.
- There are about 1,500 wooden pipes in Noval’s armazem (warehouse).
All of this information was bestowed on us during an extensive tour of the property from the vineyards and through the warehouse and other parts of the property I had never seen on any other visit. This was very much appreciated and I had no idea the property contained some of the things we were shown on this particular visit.
Afterwards, we headed indoors in the main quinta for our pre-dinner tasting and here are the Ports we were privileged to taste:
2000 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port – Inky purplish-red and opaque. Classy aromas of red berries, cinnamon spice, esteva, mint and a gentle kiss of spirit. Full-bodied, dominant raspberry and boysenberry flavors, smooth and off-dry in style. The tannins are more modest than usual and the enduring finish is delicious and memorable. Drink now to 2035. 95+ points ~ 10/3/08
2000 Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port – A cask sample? Beautiful and fragrant notes of dark cherry, red licorice, and mocha kept my schnozz in the glass for minutes at a time. The Nacional is not only a stunning VP in terms of its opulence, but the massive presence on the palate is hard to describe. Focused flavors of blackberry preserves and currants with significant spice and a tart drying profile. The structure is in another league with mouth coating, smooth tannins and vibrancy of the acidity that bolster the flavors here and deliver greatness. The finish is about as long and powerful as Vintage Port ever attains and NN2kVP is a remarkable achievement from this exalted vineyard. 97+ points ~ 10/3/08
2001 Quinta do Noval Silval Vintage Port – A wild and earthy scented VP with a lot going on. Violets, gentle whiffs of alcohol and cedar comingle to produce a complex bouquet. The palate is not as impressive but is still a worthy VP. Fresh, juicy blueberry and kirsch flavors, medium-full weight, infused with racy acidity and plenty of tannins to carry this for years to come. A bit too much spirit was showing and the finish was only medium in length although I liked the minty nuance on the aftertaste. Drink now or at peak between 18-25 years of age. 88+ points ~ 10/3/08
2003 Quinta do Noval Silval Vintage Port – This showed true to form with a lifted nose of spirit, raspberry, cherry fruit and red licorice. The palate accentuates the spirit and I don’t know if the 2003 was under-decanted or its just typical of Silval from this vintage. Unfortunately the heat appears on both the entry and the finish, but there’s plenty of fruit to make up for it and hopefully in time, the alcohol will integrate better. A smooth and chewy, big-boned baby, and showing lots of promise. I’d wait to open these for a few more years as it may be in the midst of its dumb stage ... but a long decant is advised. Should drink really well circa 2018-2026. 92+ points ~ 10/3/08
2003 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port – Epitome of “blackstrap.” The nose was a bit off and I came back to this a couple of times during our tasting as it showed a slight medicinal note and green streak which I don’t remember noticing before. Additionally, the nose was spicy hot with cinnamon, black pepper and licorice beyond the red fruits which dominate. Very unusual to say the least. A couple of the others in our group also thought so. The palate delivers the goods and brings back fond memories of previous bottles which have really wowed me, as 2003 Noval is a seriously nuanced head turner. Full-bodied, with cassis and blackcurrant delivering the goods and a wild tannic ride and mid-palate intensity score extra points. The finish is dense, velvety and berry laden with a bit of spice to provide even more complexity. Sure you can decant this for a day or more and enjoy it now, but this will require patience or an inheritance to enjoy. I believe this will be ready for prime time in the latter part of 2030’s and best a decade later. Seriously. 95+ points ~ 10/3/08
2003 Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port – This bottle is possibly the best showing of all 2003 Nacional’s I’ve tried and I was pleased to note the progression. Deeply extracted and fully opaque this looks like a lagar sample. Spicy with black licorice, black pepper, figs and plums, I loved the nose of this 2003 and there was just a speck of heat. A beautiful core of prune and figs, with copious quantities of ripe tannins that were round and harmonious yet undeniably powerful. The approachability factor of this Port is what I find most astounding and it coats the entirety of the mouth like few Ports can. Unlike the regular Noval, this can be enjoyed now and will still outlast its brother in the long run. Usually I prefer 2000 over 2003 Nacional and on this day, it was impossible to determine a winner. The finish is surreal in its length and absolutely hedonistic in its textural pleasure. How far beyond 50 years will this be great, is the only question. 97+ points ~ 10/3/08
2004 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port – Nicely perfumed nose of pine, cocoa powder, pomegranate and a dose of spirit. This needed more decant time and I bet it would have provide a bit more pizzazz. Explosive on the palate, with vibrant flavors and a freshness which I liked a lot. Red fruit and boysenberry flavors, yet delivering somewhat simple pleasure and a straightforward middle. The finish lacks flair but is long and tasty nonetheless. Drink now through 2030, but I’d suggest consuming the ‘04 early, while allowing 1997/2000/2003 to remain in the cellar. 91+ points ~ 10/3/08
2004 Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port – I preferred this to the Noval from the same vintage. It was fun having them side by side. Perfumed scents of ripe raspberry, raisins and boysenberry offer an intricate silhouette. The palate on the other hand is darker in profile with prune and blackberry fruit, sumptuous and rich in the mouth and delivering the structural building blocks that will allow this to age nicely. There’s lots of life ahead of this Romaneira and although tasty now, it is one to enjoy after at least 2 decades in the cellar and it will be at its best after 2025. 92+ points ~ 10/3/08
2005 Quinta do Noval Silval Vintage Port – I remember this one! It was a tannic beast as a cask sample. However, that is no longer the case. This seemed like a pop n’ pour experience as it clearly could have used lots more air time. The aromatics were quite tight and took lots of coaxing to provide some plum and grenadine notes, framed by mocha and a very hot streak on the nose. The palate was all about plum and juicy grenadine syrup flavors light and smooth in the mouth with an extremely long and succulent finish. I am surprised by how soft and approachable this is showing. Drink now through 2025. 91+ points ~ 10/3/08
2005 Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port – This version of Romaneira has everything you could ask of a fruit-forward easy to approach young VP. The nose suggests cherry and plum with accents of licorice and minerality. Light to medium weight and immediately pleasing on the palate, this is a fine young Port. Sweet and clean, purple fruited and well-balanced, the long finish is elegant, soft and smooth. The tannins are much rounder than my last sampling and the 2005 Romaneira will be very drinkable from 2020 and at its best through 2028, yet there is no reason to wait. With a good decant, this will provide a fine drinking experience even tomorrow night. 91+ points ~ 10/3/08
2008 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port (cask sample) – From the old vine Silval plot. Tanky, violet, spirit and red fruits and licorice. I know the profile and this would need two days to show properly. Very sweet and way too much alcohol at this point, actually the heat is “over the top.” I am sure that with more time this will come around. It’s hard to make heads or tails out of it from a 10 minute “snapshot.” Not rated ~ 10/3/08
A couple of table wines served with dinner:
2005 Quinta da Romaneira Douro Red Wine – My note was brief as I was paying attention to our guests and hostess at Noval. Fruit forward, prune, smoky, well put together, layered middle, very solid structure and age worthy. Revisit when time permits. 91+ points ~ 10/3/08
2005 Cedro do Noval Douro Red Wine – 45% Syrah, who’d have thunk it. Spicy, cedar and cigar box qualities. Great purity and refreshing on the palate. There’s an intriguing peppery element to it and although much simpler than the Romaneira, there’s a rusticity that I enjoyed, but it did not give me the impression it was from the Douro. Whether that was the Syrah (doubtful) or more of an international style, I can’t answer ... but would like to spend more time with another bottle to find out. 88+ points 10/3/08
Post prandial Port wines for dessert:
1995 Quinta do Noval Colheita Port – Tea colored with a golden meniscus. This was bottled two weeks prior to our visit. I liked this Port even though I am not much of a fan of such young Colheitas. Rarely do they exhibit this level of evolution and therefore they’re typically simple and still too Ruby-like. This baby was blessed with a lively citrus element and a praline nuttiness that provided some complexity both aromatically and from a flavor perspective. Quite nice indeed and the smooth texture and lush hazelnut aftertaste won me over. 92+ points 10/3/08
1964 Quinta do Noval Colheita Port – Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! As much as I was a fan of the 1995 Noval Colheita (considering its developed profile) this is what great Colheita is all about. From the scintillating aromatics of crème brûlée, apricot marmalade and pecan pie to the velvety smooth texture, awesome acidity which keeps the sweetness in check ... this was a real treat. Let’s not leave out the mandarin orange and butterscotch flavors or sexy five star finish of great length, this has the whole hedonistic package going on. 94 points 10/3/08
1967 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port – What a pleasant surprise and a first experience for me. I was so happy to finally try this Port and would like to find a bottle to enjoy over several days. I am not sure if I can think of any Port beyond the extraordinary 1967 Nacional that can rival this, not even the Vargellas which I really love. Viscous and ultra-rich on the palate with golden raisins, crème caramel and vibrant acidity. Smooth as silk and with a long finish to match. Outstanding! 96+ points ~ 10/3/08
1967 Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port – I have had this Port enough to almost be able to pick it out of a lineup blind. This particular bottle was not right. I could tell immediately from the medium ruby color. Others I’ve opened from my cellar showed extremely dark garnet with glints of purple still left and honestly, it is one of my top 5 Nacional’s of all. In addition to the color, this had a serious heat streak and I’ve never encountered that before. Modest complexity here and medium length. Nope, it is all wrong. I’d love to do the pairing again with the regular Noval someday, but this was not a fair comparison. Pushed to score this particular bottle: 88 points ~ 10/3/08
1968 Quinta do Noval Colheita Port – The 1968 was offered up to celebrate the 40th birthday of Julian Wiseman (on left in photo w/ Rute who was signing the bottle for him). I can’t recall ever seeing a bottle of Port at 21.5% alcohol before. From the color I would have guessed a VP and not a Colheita until I stuck my nose in it. Initially this was laden with spirit and I did not think it would blow off. I was wrong. Complex aromas of pekoe tea, honeyed citrus and cashew swirled their way to a clean whiff. Succulent, soft, smooth and with a really fine and silken texture. Plenty of acidity to keep me happy and a long finish. Not a great Colheita but a nice birthday offering and Julian seemed quite pleased by this. 92 points ~ 10/3/08
What a marathon of a visit and poor Rute was a trooper hanging out with us for so long! Everyone had a fabulous time and dinner was superb along with the twenty wines we tasted. After a long day into night, it was time to head back to our hotel. Although this is already too long for an article, there was still one stop on our journey and I’ll include that next month, so that the story is complete. I thank all of our guests and our hosts for a wonderful Friday on this trip. Tedo and Noval in the same day was a ton of fun. My sincere thanks to Rute for allowing us to have such an incredible experience during our visitation to Quinta do Noval!